The new international research and demonstration project SYSCHEMIQ is receiving a €9.6 million financial boost from the European Union’s Horizon Green Deal program. The program is intended to facilitate the systemic transition to a circular economy in the region. SYSCHEMIQ is the first concrete project within the Chemelot Circular Hub program and encompasses the Limburg region’s objective to become Europe’s first circular hub. Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen is leading the project and, together with SABIC, TNO, and Maastricht University, forms the core group of the SYSCHEMIQ consortium.
The focus is on collecting, sorting, and recycling used plastic but also on designing plastic materials that can help improve recycling. In addition to the technical aspects of this transition, the interests of citizens and local and regional authorities and knowledge institutes (higher education and university programs) are also explicitly addressed.
A total of 20 partners from industry, business, knowledge institutes, educational institutions, and government in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany are participating. Other European regions are eager to learn from the knowledge gained. The new project will start this year and continue through 2025.
The goal is to reduce the use of oil and gas and start applying used plastic as a new raw material. The project team is compiling, developing and testing a blueprint of what a larger, cross-border region needs to make strides in raw materials and the energy transition, and ways to collaborate.
SYSCHEMIQ brings together parties in this new circular value chain and identifies where opportunities lie, where obstacles need to be overcome, and how the partners can better coordinate their activities.
The project connects the participants’ data, knowledge and skills, so it’s explicitly not just the technological innovations that are tested. The partners also develop, test and monitor the collection, sorting, and recycling of plastic, innovative governance models and legislation and regulations across borders. One of the areas of focus for SYSCHEMIQ is quality requirements to determine the value of the waste with more certainty. It has proven very difficult to recycle mixed plastic waste properly enough to convert it to usable new or raw materials.
Within the project, a few pilots will be launched to find a smarter way to collect and sort waste. The importance of waste separation is also the subject of behavioral research. If local and regional governments make more of a systematic effort to improve plastic sorting and recycling, it will be more attractive for industry to invest in more large-scale recycling.
SYSCHEMIQ is designed to contribute to an increase in the recycling and reuse of plastic in new products. And this is necessary: currently, only 42% of the plastic packaging that ends up in European households is collected for recycling. The rest is disposed of in landfills or incinerated. The European Union (EU) has set a goal that in three years, half of all consumer plastics must be collected for recycling, and by 2030, this target figure must increase to 55%. Plastic recycling also makes a substantial contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the value chain.
Lia Voermans, Director of Circularity at Brightlands Chemelot Campus: “It goes without saying that I welcome support from the European Union. This shows confidence in our partners and us, particularly in our ambition to work towards a circular economy and society. The importance of a project like SYSCHEMIQ is not only the cross-border aspect, but also that all of the links in the chain are seen as one whole. Designers, producers, consumers, industry, government and everyone involved in recycling and reusing a new product. This total cohesion of the entire value chain is the only way to arrive at the desired acceleration in the transition. We will ensure the results from SYSCHEMIQ land at the Brightlands Circular Space facilities. I am convinced that by the end of the project, SYSCHEMIQ’s results will also be able to be applied in other parts of Europe.”
Jo Peters, chairman of the Chemelot Circular Hub Regional Board: “It fits in perfectly with all of the other developments that are putting us ahead of the pack here at Chemelot Circular Hub. It’s great that this project is translating the vision and integrated approach laid out in the Chemelot Circular Hub program and the Circular Economy Action Plan into more concrete terms.”
Bert Bosman, Senior Climate and Energy Specialist at SABIC: “The Circular Economy is at the heart of SABIC’s TRUCIRCLE™ program, which combines all of our circular solutions and initiatives, and this is why we wholeheartedly support and are happy to work on it. We look forward to a successful collaboration with all of the SYSCHEMIQ partners who are going to make their unique contribution to this transformation.”
Marinke Wijngaard, Managing Director of TNO Circular Economy & Environment: “We are delighted that the EU’s commitment will make it possible for us to accelerate TNO’s ambitions in the region for the transition to circular plastics, such as TNO’s vision of circular plastics as the solution to plastic waste. This is how business, knowledge institutes, government, and citizens can have a social impact through the reduction of CO2 and the use of raw materials, and create an even stronger profile for the region as an innovative, habitable testing ground.”
Thomas Cleij, Dean of the Science and Engineering Faculty – Maastricht University: “With the expansion of the Circular Engineering education and research programs, Maastricht University is making the clear choice for a sustainable future. We are excited about joining our partners in SYSCHEMIQ in taking the next big step toward achieving this. SYSCHEMIQ’s focus on recycling and reusing plastics provides an ideal foundation for this transition.”